LONDON – A team of computer scientists at Southampton University have built a supercomputer out of 64 Raspberry Pi credit card-size computers and Legos. Separately, the Open Electronics community has recently been offered a GSM/GPRS and GPS daughter card suitable for attachment to the Arduino microcontroller board.
The Southampton Raspberry Pi supercomputer, named Iridis-Pi after the University’s Iridis supercomputer, uses the message passing interface standard protocol MPI to communicate between Raspberry Pi nodes using Ethernet connections. The system has 64 processors and 1-terabit of memory. The development team, led by Professor Simon Cox, uses Python tools for Visual Studio to develop code for the computer.
"As soon as we were able to source sufficient Raspberry Pi computers we wanted to see if it was possible to link them together into a supercomputer. We installed and built all of the necessary software on the Pi starting from a standard Debian Wheezy system image and we have published a guide so you can build your own supercomputer," said Professor Cox, in a statement.
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Professor Cox’s son James, age 6, provided specialist support on Lego and system testing. The racking was built using Lego with a design developed by Simon and James, who has also been testing the Raspberry Pi by programming it using the programming software Python and Scratch over the summer.
The academic purpose of building the supercomputer was to see if a low-cost platform could be created to enable student to apply high-performance computing and data handing concepts. The high-cost and high-demand for supercomputer facilities in universities usually results in reduced access, particular for undergraduates. While the Raspberry and Lego supercomputer may not be the highest performing in the world it was assembled for less than £2,500 excluding switches (about $4,000).
Professor Simon Cox, 6-year-old son James and the Lego and Raspberry Pi supercomputer